Fish Pier Work Continues; Project Deadline Unclear

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Waterways

Construction at the Fish Pier.  FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM Though there has yet to be any big influx of workers, the contractor hired to build a new observation deck at the fish pier is making some progress, town officials say.

In a report to selectmen Monday, Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon said the concrete deck on the north and south sides of the packing house has now been poured, and new shingles, windows and doors are being installed on the building. The underground fuel tanks and the fuel lines and pumps have all been installed and tested, and could be filled with fuel and put in service by the end of the week, he said.

Contractor Sciaba Construction Corp. of Walpole has removed its construction trailer from the lower parking lot and has consolidated much of its equipment in one corner, “which has been greatly needed and very appreciated,” Keon said. The additional room is needed for parking by fishermen and for the vehicles loading seafood.

As of Tuesday, the company was expected to deliver steel support posts and beams for the new deck, “sort of the keystone to the deck substructure,” Keon said. Three deck posts have been installed on the south side of the structure, he added.

The contractor has left some construction fencing on site “to help channel people away from construction and from the offloading operations, and that’s been very successful,” Keon said. The town has been providing police officers or harbormaster staff each day for crowd control.

Town officials continue to meet with the contractor twice each week, and Sciaba representatives are pledging to work with the town “to ensure that the construction activities do not impact fish offloading. That’s been something we’ve been very clear about,” Keon said.

Selectmen Chairman Shareen Davis asked Keon to coordinate with the Aunt Lydia’s Cove Committee “to get an idea of how they’re fishing” and what construction work schedules would be least disruptive to them. Complicating matters is the fact that fishermen in Chatham Harbor don’t work set hours each day; because of shoaling near the harbor entrance, their departures and arrivals are timed to coincide with high tide.

“We’ve got to work with the fishermen to detail that out,” Keon said.

It’s unclear what deadline Sciaba is using for the job. In correspondence with the town, the contractor indicated that the deadline is Sept. 28, though town officials had hoped that the job would be done by this Friday, July 19. While the town has issued several change orders that add time to the job, they also authorized Sciaba to work extended hours each day. Those who work at the fish pier report that the number of construction workers averages between two and four people, and they rarely work outside business hours.

“Has there been a palpable increase in the number of people working on the project?” Selectman Jeffrey Dykens asked Monday.

“Not yet,” Keon replied. “His explanation for that is that the extra workers that he intends to bring will be presumably starting as early as tomorrow and this week, now that the main fabrication is going to begin. He’s had the existing union carpenters on site doing some of the shingling and door and window installations, and they’ve been actually very good at it. His own workers have been doing other things as well as working offsite in Walpole doing the fabrication.”

Of the work that’s been done so far, “is the quality up to snuff?” Dykens asked.

“We’ve not seen any issues with the quality of the workmanship. The sophistication, if you will, of the base plates, the metal fabrication, is substantial,” Keon said. “This isn’t ‘go to Home Depot for some fasteners.’” The fabrication so far appears to be very good, he added.

Some remain skeptical that the job will be completed soon, including resident Norma Avellar.

“That report sounded déjà vu of the last time we discussed this project,” she said. If the job isn’t done on time, “does the town have any recompense against that group?”

Town Counsel Patrick Costello said the town is looking into all recourse it may have.

“Our number one objective right now is to get the work done as quickly and as efficiently as possible without interfering with operations down at the fish pier,” he said. The town and the contractor hope to come to agreement this week on several change orders. “At the conclusion of that process we’ll have a much more definitive time as to the project completion date.”